We had a collection of National Geographic magazines in the basement that I loved looking at as I grew up in the late 1960’s/early 1970’s in Kenmore, New York. The magazine brought us the world. Some were from the 1940’s and had no pictures. We didn’t subscribe, but my grandfather did, and my Dad was a collector, so we had National Geographics in the basement, and they were saved. You never got rid of a copy of National Geographic. They were our google, an addition to the World Encyclopedia which was kept in the living room, but more exotic and with better pictures. On rare occasions you were allowed to cut pictures from the issues for a school project.
National Geographic was Africa. I remember reading articles and studying the pictures, seeing cultures and people and animals not seen anywhere else. Asante sana National Geographic.
My brother Daniel arrived in Kenya on Thursday night and on Friday morning we headed to Maasai Mara, where we took a safari on Saturday morning. Safari simply means ‘trip’ or ‘journey’ in Kiswahili. Safari salama means ‘Good travels.’ We drove around the park with a ranger who knew where to take us, and we saw lions, African elephants, zebras, warthogs, impala (antelope) and topi (antelope). In Kiswahili we saw simba (lion), tembo (elephant), punda mlia (zebra), and ngiri (antelope).
Then we took a long drive and went to Lake Nukuru, much closer to the equator, a completely different eco-system.
In Lake Nakuru we saw zebra (punda mlia), impala and Thompson’s gazelle (topi), baboon (nyani), black-faced vervet monkeys (tumbili), white and black rhinoceros (faru), waterbuck (bofu), water buffalo (nyati), warthogs (ngiri), flamingos (heroe), and giraffes (twiga). The second most dangerous animal in Africa, after the hippopotamus, is the water buffalo. Our guide Steven scared the poop out of us about the viciousness of water buffalo. They are crazy looking animals.
My mother loved giraffes. She had a small collection of giraffes, and when I think of my mother I think of giraffes and when I see giraffes I think of my mother. We spent the longest time today parked quietly at the side of the road watching the quiet and elegant and graceful giraffes, a small herd of 7 or 8 with a huge male leader, as they emerged and then disappeared in the trees. They do not feed in the open like all the other animals, so there is a mysteriousness as their long graceful necks appear and disappear as they nibble delicately at the green leaves around the huge thorns on the acacia tree. I listened to them eating quietly. Despite their size, their small heads make them feel gentle.They do not move quickly and they don’t make a sound as they move.
My main goal in going on safari was to see the giraffes. They did not disappoint.
I am an amateur photographer. I’ve been taking pictures for about 35 years now. Shooting these animals in the wild was tricky. 95% of my shots capture animals with their heads down because they are all eating all of the time (an elephant eats 18 hours a day), or they are shots of animal rear ends, because the animals invariably turn when the car stops. I am saving you from shots of zebra rears.
I love to wait for the moment later, after we have watched for a while, when the animal turns, and looks right at me. That is my goal. The shot with the connection, the shot where the animal looks right at you and you can see in their eyes.
With a nod to National Geographic for the inspiration so many years ago, enjoy these favorites from Lake Nukuru in Kenya.
When I asked my Mom why she loved giraffes she always said, ‘I don’t know why, I just do.’ Now I understand.
And stay away from these guys. Seriously.